Was the Pelicans’ impressive first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers a sign of things to come or just a great matchup for New Orleans? When will sweet-shooting point guard Stephen Curry return to action, and how effective will he be after missing six weeks? How will the Warriors cover the unibrowed, alley-oop catching robot named Anthony Davis?
Let us discuss all that and more in this playoff preview leading up to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans Series Preview
First Round NBA Playoffs Stats
GSW starters – Andre Iguodala (7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 41.2 percent on threes), Klay Thompson (22.6 / 3.0 / 2.8 / 51.6 percent on threes), Kevin Durant (28.2 / 8.6 / 5.2 / 63.3 percent on twos), Draymond Green (11.4 / 11.2 / 8.0 / 1.4 steals / 1.0 blocks), JaVale McGee (8.4 / 5.2 / 0.8 / 64.3 percent on twos)
NOP starters – Rajon Rondo (11.3 / 7.5 / 13.3 / 48.7 percent overall), Jrue Holiday (27.8 / 4.0 / 6.5 / 56.8 percent overall), E’Twaun Moore (7.5 / 3.8 / 1.5 / 44.4 percent overall), Nikola Mirotic (18.3 / 9.5 / 1.8 steals / 2.5 blocks / 46.2 percent from three), Anthony Davis (33.0 / 11.8 / 1.8 steals / 2.8 blocks / 57.6 percent overall)
Golden State won the seaon series 3-1.
The Warriors win if…
Their struggling offense is buoyed by the impending return of Curry. At times in the series against the San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors struggled to put the ball in the basket. Enter the two-time MVP:
Curry puts it at about 50-50 he will play Game 1
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 27, 2018
His return could have a Willis Reed-esque effect and galvanize the Warriors as a team.
Apart from Curry, stoic guard Thompson has to continue shooting the lights out against tough defenders like Holiday. Thompson’s floor spacing gives teammates open lanes to the rim.
Durant and Green will need to have efficient offensive series while trying their best defending Davis. None of the Dubs’ traditional centers match up well with the Pelicans’ superstar, so the onus will fall on these two capable defenders.
Durant especially will need to stay attentive while on Davis, because he has a tendency to fall asleep and not box out his man. Allowing Davis easy buckets via offensive rebounds is not a plan for success.
Davis will get his points — he’s that talented. The key is limiting the contributions of second-tier players like Holiday, Mirotic and Rondo. It is probably safe to assume that both Holiday and Mirotic will see their scoring and efficiency go down, with Thompson on Holiday and an impact defender on Mirotic as well.
Limiting live-ball turnovers on offense (as always) is a must with this Warrior team.
The Pelicans win if…
Davis goes supernova for at least four games. The Dubs do not have any singular player who can stifle Davis — who does? The Kentucky product averaged 33 points and 14 rebounds on 59.7 percent shooting in three games against the Warriors this season.
To reiterate: Davis will get his numbers; he is a bad, bad man.
The key for the Pelicans is those talented other guys: Holiday, Rondo, Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore, etc. The others around Davis have to continue to lock in defensively and bomb threes on the other end.
In their first-round win vs Portland, Holiday was the best guard on the court. He now haunts the dreams of Blazer guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum after he locked them up against their wills. Those efforts plus his otherworldly contributions on offense had Holiday looking like an All-NBA guard.
The once-bearded Mirotic shaved his beard and has played out of his mind ever since.
Since shaving his beard, Mirotic is averaging 22.4 PPG on 57% shooting. The Pelicans are 9-0 in those games. https://t.co/sxTQL7paPz
— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) April 26, 2018
Even more surprising than Mirotic’s hot shooting, he is making a plus impact defensively (1.8 steals, 2.5 blocks in the first round.)
Big-money and often injured forward Solomon Hill will get his opportunities to earn his salary while trying to guard Durant.
New Orleans has to prove that their performance in Round 1 was not a mirage. A strong performance against the Warriors could go a long way in convincing Davis to stick around in the Big Easy.
Warriors in five.
The two teams will split the initial games in the Bay Area, with Golden State struggling to reacclimate Curry in one of the two games.
When the venue moves to New Orleans, however, the Warriors should be firing on all cylinders. Davis will do incredible things and Holiday should continue to play well, but expect a drop-off in impact from Mirotic and Rondo.
The Warriors’ offense looks much crisper with a full squad. Curry and Thompson return to their Splash Brothers form, and Durant drains open threes while torching defenders in the mid-range.
New Orleans does well enough, but you have to wonder if having a 7-foot, super-skilled big man with a proclivity for technicals next to Davis would have helped in the series. Trade rumors for Davis die down for a little bit while the team tries to determine an appropriate contract offer for DeMarcus Cousins coming off an Achilles injury.
Golden State moves on to a conference finals date with either the D’Antoni-powered Houston Rockets with their backcourt of MVP favorite James Harden and Chris Paul or the Utah Jazz and their stifling defense anchored by Rudy Gobert with rookie Donovan Mitchell scoring at will.
OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 12: Kevin Durant #35 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors discuss the play against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 12, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)